Each week I interview someone who has experienced infertility firsthand. This week I’m interviewing April from Adventures for the Matthysse Family. She talks about her experience with premature ovarian failure, and I’m so grateful she’s willing to share!
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in Wisconsin, and later decided to go to college in Michigan. I met my husband when I was in college, and we were 19 years old. Life got a bit crazy and busy and I was just not sure where I was going, so I just took some time to figure that out. Shortly after finishing college, I married my husband at 28.
I love to go on trips and see new places, but I also love to just sit and enjoy some movies or tv in my sweat pants and hoodie all snuggled up with my cat and dog. When I am not working a crazy amount of hours, I like to do crafts and cook.
Right now we are temporarily living in Alberta, Canada, for my husband’s job. We have been here for almost two years, and hope to move back to Michigan (or at least the U.S.) early next year.
Q. How long have you been trying to conceive and what challenges are you facing?
We were not really “trying;” the plan was to just go off birth control and “be careful” for a little while. We knew we would be moving to Canada later that year for about 2 years. So if it happened, great, but we would try to learn my cycle and just use condoms when needed.
After about 6 months off the pill, I had no cycle. This was odd because I had never missed before. I took a HPT, which was negative.
I really didn’t think I was pregnant, but I just wanted to be sure. We just chucked it up to a random missed cycle. A few weeks went by and still nothing happened. I started to get hot flashes, night sweats, and I felt like I was in a really bad mind fog some days. The hot flashes started to occur daily, then every hour, and then every 30 minutes. There were days I had to change my shirt under my scrubs at lunch because I was soaked in my own sweat. I was not sleeping well since I would wake up again drenched in sweat, or cold because I was soaked. It was a really rough four weeks.
I had some blood work done and was referred to a specialist. By the time my appointment came, I was feeling physically better and was hopeful all of this was a fluke or maybe not as bad as I had thought. The specialist looked at me and said, “I have to run another blood test to 100% diagnose you, but from everything you have told me and from what I have read and seen in your blood work you have Premature Ovarian Failure. The reason you feel like someone going through menopause, is because you are or were. The reason you are feeling better, is because your last blood work shows you are in the post-menopausal stages.”
I just thought “I AM 28 YEARS OLD! I am not even 35 or 30. How can this be?!” He went on to tell me that he can run some DNA and anti-body tests, but most of the time we do not know why ovaries just stop working. The only way I will ever be pregnant is to do IVF with an egg donor.
I went into this appointment thinking, Maybe I’ll have to take Clomid. That wouldn’t be so bad. I have a few friends on that. It might take a bit longer but I am 28 and that’s not that old.” So when he said POST-MENOPAUSAL and IVF with DONOR EGGS— I just sat there, blank. I couldn’t even cry. I didn’t even know what to think. Of course he sent me to the lab for the all the tests he wanted to run, and I broke down on my way there. I felt a little bad for the tech in the lab. She came out all happy and smiling- until she saw me. She was really nice and seemed to handle it all well.
Q. You share a little bit about your journey on your blog. What made you decide to blog about it?
We were in the middle of our prepping to move to another country the day I got all this information. I had already planned to blog to keep up with family since I knew we would be far away and not able to see them much for the next 2 years. I didn’t expect for it to become so much about infertility and how hard life can be. I just wanted it out there. I didn’t want people asking me all the time or ‘hinting’ to me on Facebook or the phone about when we will have kids or analyzing everything I did. I don’t like secrets, and I am not good at hiding my emotions. So why not just put it out there? And I have to say it did make it a bit easier.
Q. Which books, quotes, websites, verses, movies, songs, etc. have been an encouragement to you during your journey?
I did a lot of Google-ing and reading online. I found other bloggers and read their stories. Some where quite encouraging. I read a lot of forum posts. I just liked to see that others had gone through all of that. It was just nice to find people sharing stories.
Q. What has been your lowest point and how did you survive it?
When I got all of this news, we were moving, I was not working and it was Christmas. I cried a lot. We were in this new house, in a new place with no one we really knew, and felt blindsided. I had a lot of anger. I was not one of those women that waited until she was 40 to have kids and wonder why it took so long. (I don’t mean to offend anyone with that comment. It was just what I was feeling/thinking at the time). I was 28 years old and I had planned to have a baby before 30. I was not ‘old’, so why did I already go through menopause? What was the reason?? Why me??
I survived with time and good support from my husband, family and friends. I just took some time to go through the whole grieving process.
Q. Was it difficult for you to come to terms with the idea of using donor eggs?
I am a sperm donor baby (and no, I don’t mean slang terms for “dead beat dad”- I hate that saying). I was told at a young age that my parents went to a clinic because my dad was sterile. So as long as I can remember I have been very curious and interested in fertility treatments. I did know a decent amount about IVF and sperm and egg donors. I just didn’t think I would ever need one- at least not at 28 years old. From what I knew, egg donors were for women over 35 or cancer survivors.
Overall, no it wasn’t really difficult for me to come to terms with it. I think I was already exposed to it enough that I didn’t take it as hard as some women would.
I really wanted to try to find a way to have a known donor, since as a sperm donor child I know how that whole process of not knowing anything can be. I wanted a way that maybe one day our child(ren) could know the person or have access to the family. I talked to my friend about maybe one of her sisters doing it. They were young and had just entered college. She and I were good friends, so the family would be around but not involved in every day family activities.
Long story short—(you can read my blog if you want the long version), it did not work out that way. Now we are on the wait list for an anonymous donor. That was hard since we had planed for almost a year from the time to the agreement to all the testing, counciling and the whole IVF cycle. I had to accept that I now I was going with an anonymous donor instead of my first choice of a known donor. And also, now we’ve been waiting over 6 months to just get matched with a donor, and it would still be another few months before the transfer.
Q. How did you decide it was the right decision for you?
My husband and I had always talked about older child adoption or foster care after we had a couple kids, and it’s still something we plan to do might be sooner than we thought. I always grew up waiting a large family and having kids. I alway wanted to experience pregnancy and having a baby and all of those things, so I knew I wanted to try IVF with an egg donor. If it does not work, we will sign up for adoption, (We can’t even start the process while living in Canada because we’re U.S. residents). I know if I don’t try IVF I will always wonder.
The clinic we use has a great program. We get 3 fresh cycles and 3 frozen cycles if we get any frozen. If it does not work any of those times we get a good amount refunded. It’s worth it to me to try. I would love if we had a little boy that is just like my husband. He is such a wonderful person.
Q. How have you taken care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually during your struggles?
At times not well. It’s been hard. I have to say that having pets is good. My dog EXPECTS a walk everyday. So I have to get up and do that, as much as I dont want to some days. I am happy I do it once I get outside (except when its way below freezing and I need five layers) Other than that, I just eat well and try to work out when I can. I liked blogs, forums, and talking with other people I know who have dealt with some kind of infertility.
Q. Have you been able to find a “silver lining” in your infertility?
Yes. I think I have let go of my need to have plans and my need to know how things are going to work out. I think I missed out on enjoying life much at times because I would focus on looking ahead. I have learned to give that up a lot more and enjoy the present. I still have moments when it’s hard to let go of that, but I am doing much better. I have spent a lot of time just doing things I want to, and not having a schedule. If I want to go shopping or out with a friend, I can just do that. I don’t have to work around nap time or make sure lunches are ready for kids. I have learned to be more content and enjoy the freedom I have with my time. We went on a vacation with no plans-not even a hotel set up. I had a few I looked up, but we planned to just drive and see where we ended up at. If you told me three years ago I would do that I would not believe you. We had fun–and if you read my blog you’ll see it was probably the better route anyway.
Also I have seen just how supportive my family and friends can be. It is amazing how many people want to help in some way and are cheering for you. Even people like all of us that don’t even know each other and just read the stories- We all have our own cheer team of strangers.
Q. Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
It’s okay to take time to be sad and grieve whatever it is you need to, and its okay to tell people that. The best thing someone said to me was, “Right now we just need to be sad about this and we can talk about the other things later.” She was referring to people telling me, “You know you can always adopt and there are plenty of kids out there looking for homes.”
We can still be sad about infertility. It’s okay to tell someone, “I know you are trying to help, and I know there are ways to add to our family but right now I just want to (insert here, cry, grieve, be angry) about _____(reason) __________ .
Many thanks to April for sharing her story. Please leave a comment below to let her know you appreciate her sharing, and consider pinning the image to the right so other people can find and read her story.
I’d love to feature YOUR story in an upcoming interview. Please let me know if you’re interested. You do not have to submit a picture or have your own blog to participate. You can see all my previous interviews here.